The most thought-provoking artwork on the playa this year was a clear plexiglass pyramid with various denominations of U.S. dollars taped inside. The denominations ranged from $1 to $100. People were free to walk inside anytime and steal the money if that was their choice. The creators of the pyramid weren’t monitoring it at all. Each bill, however, was stamped in pink lettering with the mantra ‘IN YOU WE TRUST.’
Day after day, a couple more clear rectangles would appear on the pyramid as people chose to take the money. I heard that some people actually taped their own money where bills had been stolen. Others had scrawled their thoughts in the blanks: “How dare you!” “CHEATER” “Steal art?”
A friend, who was fascinated by it, brought me to see it. As a few of us gathered around, my friend initiated a discussion. “It’s nonsense. Taking money when you don’t even need money here at Burning Man. I mean, you can’t buy anything (well, coffee and ice)…but you can’t really use this money here. It doesn’t matter here…and there are these people who go and steal.”
One woman commented, “This is a metaphor for artists and galleries. We are artists. We showcase our work. We don’t make that much money, yet these gallery owners, they take our money from us. Our hard-earned money. People taking money here from this art piece, it’s no different than what I deal with every day as an artist.”
I continued, “I find it so intriguing that people are shocked that money is taken. No way! At Burning Man? No shit. People steal. The first year, my bike was stolen. Everyone tried to say it was a mistake, someone must have accidentally taken off with it. It must have been a mistake. My little kiddy bike? Someone is going to ride off with my bike that is suited for an 8-year-old girl?!?! Then the next year while I was dancing away, someone had taken my jacket. No one accidentally puts on someone else’s jacket. Burning Man is great, but it’s no utopia. There are thieves here and crooks. It shouldn’t be surprising.”
We all stood there, listening. No one wanted to admit that any view point was correct. I think people didn’t want to think of the bad stuff. Ironically, that’s what made this art beautiful.
What happens if you find a bill? They’re hoping you’ll return it. Read more about the YOUniversal Trust Project on their web site.